Iraqi sports group to sue IOC

July 26th, 2008 - 4:28 am ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, July 26 (DPA) A group representing Iraqi athletes will file a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice against the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over its decision to uphold its ban on Iraqi at the Beijing Games, an official said Friday. The Association for the Protection of Iraqi Athletes’ Rights will take legal action against the IOC for damaging Iraq’s reputation and infringing on its sovereignty and independence, Jaza’ir al-Sahlani, the spokesman for the country’s interim athletic committee, told the Voices of Iraq news agency.

The Iraqi government dissolved the National Olympic Committee (NOC) in May saying it was illegitimate because its election lacked legal quorum.

The IOC regarded the move as a serious political interference in the affairs of the country’s supposed independent athletic body and asked the government to revoke its decision.

The association is in consultation with a committee of six lawyers led by an attorney from Germany over the planned lawsuit, al-Sahlani said.

The Iraqi government has nothing to do with the lawsuit, he said, adding that the IOC had refused to receive Iraqi officials, who wanted to make their case.

But the IOC said Thursday that Iraqi officials were invited to meet its members in Switzerland to discuss possible solutions but it did not receive a positive response.

There have been complaints in Iraq’s sports community that the country’s Youth and Sports Ministry is dominated by Shia Muslims, who are said to bear a grudge against some members of the dissolved Olympic committee.

Those members held senior posts in the Saddam-era Olympic committee, which was run by Uday Saddam Hussein, the former dictator’s eldest son, who tortured athletes for failing to live up to his expectations.

Iraq would have sent five athletes to compete in archery, rowing, judo and weightlifting contests in the Beijing Games.

The IOC named it “very unlikely” that these athletes will be able to compete in Beijing after all.

“The Iraqi government was invited to come to Lausanne to discuss possible remedies, but did not positively respond to the IOCs invitation,” the IOC said in a statement.

“Over the last five years, the IOC and the wider Olympic family have provided funding and training opportunities to support the Iraqi NOC and more than 50 Iraqi athletes and coaches. The Iraqi government’s actions have destroyed this progress.”

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